Part travelogue, part sketchbook, and part tea cookbook, Chai Pilgrimage: A Soul-Nourishing Tea Adventure Through Nothern India delves deep into the traditions and people behind one of the world’s most popular drinks.
Ayurvedic practitioner Patrick Shaw and illustrator Jenny Kosteki-Shaw’s new book, released in January, is a snapshot of the couple’s travels through India, flush with their reverence for tea, stunning photography, and Kosteki-Shaw’s whimsical design. Anecdotes gathered in teashops, monasteries, and Darjeeling gardens shed light on the rich culture behind India’s popular brew, while a collection of recipes garnered from India’s ubiquitous chai wallahs (tea vendors) and Shaw’s two decades of ayurveda put authentic chai at the reader’s fingertips.
Shaw, who teaches ayurveda and ayurvedic cooking at the University of New Mexico in Taos, first began brewing chai more than twenty years ago after a life-changing first cup. He and his wife, who writes and illustrates children’s books, spent four months traveling through northern India gathering oral histories, trying new recipes, and getting schooled in the country’s tea production. On their return they launched a Kickstarter campaign, and with incentives like original artwork for backers they quickly funded the book’s publication.
Modern chai—black tea steeped in cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger and mixed with milk and sugar—is an omnipresent take on a centuries-old remedy. Even before the British popularized tea in India, herbal tonics made from similar spices were a staple in Indian culture for curing sickness and warming the body. Chai Pilgrimage seeks to rekindle excitement for chai’s holistic roots and educate readers on its complex cultural significance.
“India’s spiritual practices, medicine, cuisine, classical music, art, and every aspect of the culture are all reflections of each other,” says Shaw, noting the book is just as much about Indian heritage as tea culture.
While Chai Pilgrimage links chai to India’s social, spiritual, and culinary roots, it’s also about tea’s ability to bring people together.
“Sipping tea with others is one of the most peaceful and humane interactions we can have with another,” says Shaw. “This is why it is important.”
—Regan Crisp is Fresh Cup’s associate editor.